Thursday, February 03, 2005

The Nasonex bee

While collapsing on the couch Tuesday night after my first day of teaching (and burning my hand while making dinner), I caught the tail end of an ad for Nasonex, an allergy medicine. The ad caught my attention because it was using an animated honey bee as its spokes-organism, though, of course, it didn't catch my attention for the right reasons: what stood out were the glaring errors in their animated hymenopteran. The first problem is that the bee in the ad was talking with its mouth. This would be very difficult physiologically, as the bee respiratory system (the tracheal system) is not connetected to the mouth at all, and thus the bee could not easily pass air over structures in its mouth to make noise.

A quick visit to the Nasonex website found two good images of the bee to critique.

Nasonex bee flying
Nasonex bee hovering

1) The eyes are clearly vertebrate-style eyes. Insect eyes do not have an iris, pupil, or sclera, and instead have compound eyes containing many ommatidia.

2) The legs are in the wrong place. All insect legs and wings arise from the thorax (the middle tagma), but instead this bee has been drawn with two pairs of legs coming off the abdomen. Only certain other arthropods (e.g. crustaceans) have appendages on their abdomens.

3) The mouth is wrong, wrong, wrong. Insects do not have teeth and do not have a jaw (both of these are uniquely chordate characteristics). Bees also do not have chordate-style tongues, which it appears that this bee has. Instead, bees have both mandibles and a tube that protrudes from their head and contains a tongue-like structure (formed from modified arthropod mouthparts; two maxillae and the labial palps wrapping around a glossa). The jaw and teeth this bee has been drawn with would be decidedly useless in consuming nectar and honey, two of a honey bee's primary food sources.

4) The bee is alternately drawn with one or no pairs of wings. When the bee first loads on their site, it somehow flies across the screen with a complete lack of wings. When the bee reappears, it has only one pair of wings. I'm sure the bee would be highly insulted by this, as the primary insect lineage that has only one pair of wings is flies (not that I have anything against flies, but I suspect bees would); bees and most other insects have two pairs of wings.

5) Whatever they've drawn over the eye: it looks like it's supposed to be an eyebrow, and I could see it as a Pitot tube, but it sure doesn't belong there.

6) There're no pollen baskets (corbiculae) on the hind legs; bees use these baskets to carry pollen back from flowers to their hive. Considering that the bee is busy visiting flowers during the commercial, and thus is most likely a foraging worker, it should definitely have pollen baskets.

For some great closeups of what honey bees actually look like, take a look at these SEMs or these videos of a bee feeding. Aren't they far cuter in real life?

Coming up next on Rhosgobel: rabbits don't really clamor for sugary cereals.


Radagast said...

Importing comments:

June 4, 2007, 10:19:47 AM PDT – Like – Reply

I think the old bee looked like Rudy Giuliani.
March 15, 2007, 10:58:03 AM PDT – Like – Reply

Old JP
I shape foam into bass fly bodys of various designs. Have been watching the BEE and wondering if a Bass would appreciate my shaping and coloring a twin ?
March 11, 2007, 7:57:02 AM PDT – Like – Reply

Darrin Brunner
They changed the bee. I like the new bee better, he looks a little like Bruce Willis.
January 16, 2007, 7:17:50 PM PST – Like – Reply

Attention you worthless ****. It's a ****ing cartoon bee made to appease a mass audience. Please focus on more pressing issues such as how best to kill yourself, instead of scrutinizing allergy medicine commercials.

Edited By Siteowner
August 14, 2006, 7:47:30 PM PDT – Like – Reply

Oh my, people. It is just a commercial. So frikkin what if they have a bee with eyeballs and a mouth. I think it is kinda cute and it leaves a lasting impression in my mind of the product they are advertising. My one year old likes it too. I think the guy that got so worked up about this to begin with needs to get some meds and stop being so critical. I hope he doesn't have kids yet because he certainly won't be able to bond with them.
August 8, 2006, 9:32:15 AM PDT – Like – Reply

Back to the Nasonex ad, is that Antonio Banderas doing the voice?
April 26, 2006, 12:56:21 AM PDT – Like – Reply

Radagast said...

Importing comments:

The person that started all the bee inaccuracies has entirely too much time on their hands. Who cares if it's accurate, it's just a commercial! Anal-retentive much?
February 17, 2006, 8:21:24 AM PST – Like – Reply

Obviously Neal Adams has never seen a talking bee, perhaps you could show him one so he could get it correct (since you have no problem with talking bees). Instead, why don't you visit his website to see the work of one of the most talented artists around.
June 14, 2005, 4:08:29 PM PDT – Like – Reply

Bob Smith
Get a life.
March 29, 2005, 7:41:40 PM PST – Like – Reply

Jasen Lux Chambers
HI gang,

"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.", Albert Einstein quote

So yeah the bee is Neal Adams bee. I'm a 3D guy that worked on the bee.

So wonder what would Albert think about the bee? I think the #2 spot is cool cause the bee gets a girl bee and they kiss!

March 10, 2005, 11:47:58 AM PST – Like – Reply

Ah yes. Clearly that's a pitot tube!
February 9, 2005, 2:35:41 PM PST

Radagast said...

Importing comments:

Very pertinent post, but it's only the tip of the iceberg in distortions of other species. My current pet peeve is people who will draw an octopus with a smiley face on its mantle!

I'd like to see someone set up a page pointing out such anatomical atrocities. It would be fun and informative too.

Those "Oh yes, I never noticed that!" moments can be delightful. I'm thinking back to when I first really noticed where bees carry their antennae (another problem with the Nasonex bee that no one's pointed out yet). I sometimes think it would be a nice conversation starter to go to a costume party as a bee but wear my antennae, not on top of my head, but sprouting forward from the middle of my face -- a much more useful place!
February 9, 2005, 11:56:51 AM PST – Like – Reply

Stephen Cooper
This is simply appopriation of a common culteral icon for commercial use, the Bee is a representation, conveying ideas and emotions.

To make everyone show things as they REALLY are, without inventing anything new, would be to kill off creativity.

While I would say that this ad serves little useful purpose, it does little harm as well.

Leave the sleepy looking bee to its computer-enhanced dream land
February 9, 2005, 7:54:55 AM PST – Like – Reply

But can bees really have an allergy problem with pollen? Even if they could, would Nasonex be the right medication for such an insect to take?
February 5, 2005, 2:44:44 PM PST

Radagast said...

Importing comments:

If it was a make-believe nasonex bee that had nostrils, it might be the most effective. I guess the real insect equivalent of allergic rhinits might be allergic spiraclitis? Maybe singulair or zyrtec would help but I don't know if insects use histamines or leukotrienes as inflammatory mediators like we do.
February 5, 2005, 2:21:26 PM PST – Like – Reply

I'm a biologist, not an ad consultant ... it's not my problem if the biology of their chosen spokes-organism doesn't fit their needs They could have picked an organism that had, say, a nose ...

But your question is intriguing. Bees are complex enough that it seems as though the artist(s) could convey all the emotions they wanted in the ad solely through the bee's body language. Maybe the ad could have had the bee start off all sad and droopy, slowly flying between flowers (maybe with the compound eyes and mandibles/tongue drooping). Then, after Nasonex comes in, the bee could happily buzz around from flower to flower, possibly even dancing when it got back to the hive (which bees actually do).

But then again, I'm not an ad consultant.
February 4, 2005, 8:28:01 AM PST – Like – Reply

Aren't the markings on the underside of the abdomen more like those on a wasp than a bee?

I agree the teeth are a bit much, but were you a consultant for the company, how would you suggest that the bee show that it was happy, and form English speech sounds?
February 4, 2005, 7:26:40 AM PST – Like – Reply

I guess we can give them the benefit of the doubt ... though in that case shouldn't they have had a little blur, and/or had the same blurred/absent wings when the bee was hovering (in the lower image)?

Very nice bee footage, btw ... the nasnov gland shot is especially cool.
February 3, 2005, 10:41:37 PM PST – Like – Reply

That's good stuff. I will say in defense of the wanna-bee(sorry, that just came out too easily), I think the no-wing view is meant to represent wings moving too fast to be seen. Here is a link to some more bee videos.
February 3, 2005, 8:25:16 PM PST

Radagast said...

Importing comments:

Link to bee video: